In my second year in the insurance business I set a couple of records while going for the coveted President's ring. At one point my closing ratio was over 90%. It seemed almost effortless at times. I felt at one with my work, my prospects, and my clients. I was extremely focused and energized, but felt at the same time a sense of calm and control. I was on a roll, on fire, unstoppable, kicking butt and taking names, I was...


The "zone" has been used for years, most often in sports, to describe a state of peak performance. In 1991 Mihály Csíkszentmihályi's book Flow described the same experience and explored its implication in art, music, business, and spirituality. Most recently there have been extensive studies in the world of video gaming and flow (note: for the purpose of this article, the zone and flow are two terms describing the same psychological experience).

What is the zone? What are the barriers to it? How do we get in it? How do we stay in it more often? While obtaining this state can be elusive, it is a worthwhile pursuit. Here's the good news: it is available to all of us and can happen in a wide variety of settings. Let's explore how to increase the chances you get in it and stay in it more often.

Defining the Zone

“The zone is simply a mental state of total involvement in the present moment without the mental burden of worry, doubt, or fear about results.” -Sport Psychology Today

"It’s a very strange feeling. It’s as if time slows down and you see everything so clearly. You just know that everything about your technique is spot on. It just feels so effortless; it’s almost as if you’re floating across the track. Every muscle, every fibre, every sinew is working in complete harmony and the end product is that you run fantastically well." -Mark Richardson Extract from ‘Mind Games,’ Grout and Perrin, 2006.

According to Csíkszentmihályi, flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. When one is in the flow state, he or she is completely engrossed with the one task at hand and, without making the conscious decision to do so, loses awareness of all other things: time, people, distractions, and even basic bodily needs. This occurs because all of the attention of the person in the flow state is on the task at hand; there is no more attention to be allocated.

In summary, there are three distinct elements in the zone: total immersion, optimal performance, and success.

Barriers/Blocks to the Zone Where these are present, the zone cannot exist.

Playing small

Getting in the Zone- the 3 P's:

- Prerequisite: Challenge and Skill. The zone occurs where an above average challenge is met with above average skill. Notice Csikszentmihalyi's graph to the right. If you have a high level of skill with no challenge, you will be bored or relaxed. With a high level of challenge and little skill, you will become worried and anxious. Challenge tends to alleviate apathy and boredom as well as bring focus, which tends to replace fear and worry. This has massive implications for your personal development. Strive to increase your capacity for handling challenges through training and development.
- Preparation: Are you ready? This is as close to a silver bullet as it gets: If you are not currently facing a challenge by something that engages you fully in a positive way, create one. Make it clear and measurable and make sure it turns you on. Just like athletes do, as you prepare to take on the challenge, train for it, strategize, visualize, and mentally rehearse the successful accomplishment of the task at hand. Focus on something that creates positive feelings for you. The more intensely you rehearse and train, the better your performance will tend to be.
- Performance: GO TIME! While much of your focus during preparation will be internal, here your focus shifts outward. It's game on. Look, listen, feel, smell, taste the world around you. If it is a sales challenge, nothing exists except you, your prospect, and the task at hand. Stay out of your head and in the game. It's GO TIME!

“What is love? Love is playing every game as if it is your last.” -Michael Jordan

Staying in the Zone Here are four areas to consider making permanent shifts in to lay the groundwork for experiencing the zone:

1. Environment. What's on your nightstand? What are you listening to on your ipod? How's your living space, your car, and your office? Are you inspired by your surroundings?
2. People. Are you surrounding yourself with teams, communities, mentors, and coaches who bring out your best? Go out of your way to be around extraordinary people. Who do you need to let go of?
3. Lifestyle: How are your health and fitness habits? Are you taking time to learn, grow and reflect? What do you focus on in the last 15 minutes and the first 15 minutes of each day? Subtle shifts in your schedule can produce massive shifts in your lifestyle.
4. Recovery: According to Dr. Jim Loehr, too much stress is NOT the problem. Lack of recovery is. Make sure you're getting enough downtime.

Author's Bio: 

Doug Grady has been studying and teaching the pathways to personal potential for over 20 years. Exciting, entertaining and enlightening are words invariably used to describe his unique seminars and workshops. Doug is an entrepreneur, musician, and author of The Ripple Effect. He is President of High Achievers, and is owner or co-owner of three additional companies. His companies, writings, trainings, and music are designed with one purpose: to help people reach their God-given potential.

Doug gives a significant portion of his time and money to local and global causes. He is a table leader at Peachtree Ironmen, dedicated to encouraging and equipping men to become a positive impact for Jesus at home, at work, and in the community. He has been on several mission trips, most recently to Guayaquil, Ecuador where was part of a twelve man team building homes for the poorest of the poor. Doug is an active member of Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, GA.